Solarpunk and Art Nouveau

This post was first written and published by mastodon user as a thread on their account. Reposted with full permission. The original thread can be found here.

It makes me sad when people dismiss Art Nouveau as being “for the rich” while acting as if things aren’t really Solarpunk unless they’re gritty or recycled looking. People act as if pretty things are only for the wealthy – which is just what the wealthy want you to believe.

Art Nouveau is perfect for the Solarpunk movement, and not just because of the plant-based themes. It’s deeper than that.

Art Nouveau was an inherently anti-capitalist movement.

Acanthus, 1875, William Morris. Flowing artwork depicting curling leaves.

Art Nouveau found its roots in the Arts and Crafts movement in late 19th century England, when the industrial revolution was in full swing.

Artisans rejected the things which Victorian capitalism was all about. Things like mass production, profit over quality, and the dehumanization that factory workers suffered.

Instead, their goal was to emphasize the human side of things. The attention to fine detail which capitalist factories would never bother with.

An Alphonse Mucha artwork, showing a young woman amongst spiralling plants.

Art Nouveau grew across Europe in reaction to industrialization.

It was never intended to be enjoyed in private. Artisans wanted to create beauty in public spaces, which is why train stations are still often full of Art Nouveau architecture. The Paris Metro is a well known example.

Even as the wealthy were trying to push industrialization onto the world, the Art Nouveau movement was about trying to make things beautiful for all.

One of the elaborate Art Nouveau entrances to the Paris Metro system.

Another thing about Art Nouveau is that it was intended as a Gesamtkunstwerk – a German term for a “total work of art.” Their goal wasn’t just to make a few things pretty for a select few.

Their goal was to make literally EVERYTHING beautiful. Everything from buildings and public spaces to everyday furniture and eating utensils.

Art Nouveau architecture in Paris. A large staircase intended for many people to use, with fine detailing of botanical motifs in the bannisters.

Unfortunately, the blossoming Art Nouveau movement was killed off around the time of World War I and never properly recovered.

Now, it’s considered to be a thing of the past. Capitalism teaches us that things which are old and pretty are also expensive and that they are only for the wealthy to enjoy. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe this.

Do NOT believe this. Beauty is not for the rich or for a select few. Beauty is for everyone.

Art Nouveau artwork by William Morris, showing yellow and white flowers and green leaves amid spiralling plant stems.

In summary, this is why the Art Nouveau aesthetic matches Solarpunk. Both movements are anti-capitalist, have an innate appreciation for nature, and are about making the world a better place for everyone rather than merely a select few.

For this reason, I like that much of the Solarpunk movement is influenced by Art Nouveau. I really hope it continues that way.


Artwork by Imperial Boy, showing a cityscape full of large buildings, interspersed with trees and greenery.
Artwork by Imperial Boy, showing a cityscape full of large buildings, interspersed with trees and greenery.
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